As Above So Below
I faced that challenge last week as I tried to explain the appeal of Azure Ray's music. It's easy enough to explain the local draw; Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink have deep ties to Birmingham, after all, as they met here at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and have played together and separately in the years since. Once you hear the way their voices intertwine with each other's as they alternate lead vocals and melodies, the band doesn't need explanation. I read one review that described the genre of their work as "dream pop," and though I'm not entirely sure what that means, it seems as apt a description as any.
Indeed, the pair created a dreamy mood as they took the stage at Bottletree on Sept. 4. Taylor and Fink's music has long highlighted their ethereal voices and superb songwriting, and on their EP released that day, "As Above, So Below," that's taken to another level with a heavily electronic-influenced sound. The band immediately launched into new material by opening with "Scattered Like Leaves," the first track on the EP. The crowd, which was polite and encouraging during openers SoKo and Brad Armstrong, immediately perked up.
Those gathered for this Tuesday-night show seemed to hang on the band's every word as they drifted between the EP's material and older songs from their full catalog. And though the electronic material is a change for Taylor and Fink (whose husband, Todd, is lead singer of the electronica band The Faint and was actively involved in the EP's creation), it flowed naturally from their previous repertoire. The end result, both on the recording and last week's show, is music that floats this listener down a river of introspection. That may be a difficult thing to explain to someone else, but I'll keep trying.
Set list: "Scattered Like Leaves," "On and On Again," "Don't Make a Sound," "Don't Leave MyMind," "Unannounced," "Displaced," "Safe and Sound," "Hold On Love,"* "November," "Larraine,"* "Red Balloon," "Sleep"
*I'm not positive on these two tracks, but that's the best I can guess based on the lyrics I jotted down and some extensive Googling. If I'm wrong, holler at me!
LP / CD / MP3